Scott-Eklund Racing continued to show its pace against the might of the manufacturer-run teams in round three of the Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) in California this weekend.
Double Formula Drift Champion and 2010 X Games bronze medallist Samuel Hubinette made light work of his rivals in the opening four-lap heat, taking an immediate lead which he extended to over two seconds on lap one. A dominant performance by the American, in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, allowed him to power his Scott-Eklund Racing Saab 9-3 with Eneos Motor Oil to a convincing win, finishing eight seconds ahead at the flag to earn a place in the final.
As part of the prestigious X Games LA 2012, the driver pairing of Hubinette and Scott-Eklund Racing Team Principal Andy Scott, undoubtedly one of Europe’s finest rallycross exports, negotiated a 0.7 mile tarmac and gravel surface track around the streets of downtown LA.
Competing at the 18th running of the multi-discipline extreme sports competition, alongside many of the world’s top athletes vying for medals in their respective sports, Scott got his debut appearance off to a tremendous start, seeding seventh after Saturday’s practice, just ahead of Hubinette.
At the wheel of his Scott Trawlers-backed Saab 9-3, Scott quickly got to grips with the challenging street circuit configuration, which encompassed a series of 90-degree bends, as well as a tricky combination of left-right-left corners immediately following the challenging tabletop jump.
For Scott, his four-car heat on Sunday saw him line up alongside Travis Pastrana. At the lights, the Scot lost momentum briefly, but picked up the pace entering turn one. Ahead, Pastrana slowed earlier than anticipated on the entry to the 90 degree right-hander, leaving Scott nowhere to go but into the back of the race leader. The resultant collision forced the race stoppage, while the damage sustained by Scott forced him in for rapid repairs.
A slick job by the Scott-Eklund Racing crew allowed them to complete the job in time for the Dumfries fisherman to take up a spot in the Last Chance Qualifier, the winner of which would make up the ten-car final grid. However, despite his best efforts to join his team-mate Hubinette in the Final and with it the chance of the coveted gold medal, Scott was unable to capitalise on the Saab 9-3’s 600bhp, two-litre 16v powerplant, and finished just adrift of the eventual race winner.
In the six-lap Final, Hubinette lined-up alongside eight-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, making a one-off appearance in the GRC. A lightening start by Hubinette allowed him to challenge for the lead into the first corner, until the red flag was thrown to retrieve a stranded car. A false start at the next attempt necessitated a third restart and again, Hubinette made a great getaway to place third into the first corner. However a collision with another car dropped him down to seventh and a lap later, a punctured left rear tyre sustained in the incident, saw him parked up by the side of the track, bringing his chances of claiming a medal to an early finish.
Andy Scott – Scott-Eklund Racing Team Principal & driver, Car #26:
“It was naturally a very disappointing end to the weekend after such a promising two opening rounds in Charlotte and Texas. We came here very confident, the car was fully prepared after the heavy jump in Texas and the subsequent damage we sustained there and we’d made several set-up changes to allow us to reduce the risk, whilst not compromising the Saab 9-3s advantages.
“In practice and seeding we managed to get some good laps in and I was very happy with the pace, so going into the heat I was feeling pretty good. I didn’t get the best start, but then picked up momentum, and as we entered the first corner Travis braked earlier than I expected, and I ran into the back of him. It was purely a racing incident, but nevertheless not the way I wanted to start my X Games campaign. We managed to get the car repaired just in time for the Last Chance Qualifier, but sadly it wasn’t enough to get through to the final.”
Samuel Hubinette – Scott-Eklund Racing Saab 9-3 with ENEOS Motor Oil, Car #77:
“I’m very excited once again to bring home a first place in the heat. I made a great start but after two laps my clutch started to go away, but luckily I had enough of a lead to keep Ken Block behind me. I’ve been fortunate now to win all my heats so far this season so that’s a great testament to the performance of the Scott-Eklund Racing Saab 9-3 with Eneos Motor Oil.
“But unfortunately in the final we had a red flag and while I was running third and feeling very strong about challenging for second, I got smacked from behind into the wall. But that’s racing, and sometimes that happens. But overall I’m happy with my performance and the car’s performance, the gear changes we made overnight were great, and having rally legend Per Eklund alongside me has been fantastic. I can’t wait for the next round and hopefully that will be my time to get on the podium.”
Per Eklund – Scott-Eklund Racing Technical Director:
“Overall I’m very happy with our pace today it was very, very good. Samuel was on for a second place in the final, he was in front of (Sebastien) Loeb into the first corner and tried to go outside but there wasn’t place for him. At the restart again he made a good start but then was taken out and got the puncture.
“For Andy although we managed to repair the damage from the first heat, there was so many false starts in the LCQ, so many stupid things really. They held the cars so long on the grid, Andy was overheating and lost the start and that was bad luck. We did a lot of work after Texas and made a lot of changes to the cars, which look to have been the right ones as the cars have both held up well to the challenge here this weekend. Now though we have a very short turn around before the next rounds and a lot of work to do again to get ready for that race in New Hampshire.”